How I Record The Sketch Process

 

I am receiving many questions on how I record my sketches. I can't reply to all, so it's simpler to just write about it, here. No, I don't hold the camera with one hand. It sits on a Manfrotto tripod. I will do another article on how I work with this camera support. For now, I am talking about the camera and recording process. I use the Fujifilm X-Pro2. While I like prime lenses, I use a zoom lens here, the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS. Why a zoom lens? I need to zoom to adjust to the paper size (I know, I could just adjust the tripod legs and just use my either 23mm or 35mm if I really wanted to). The white balance is really important here, since all I do has a white background.

The manual control is really simple, since the white piece of paper is always in front of me, but any change in light color is visible immediately. During a sketch of just one hour, I need to adjust the manual WB several times, depending on the changes in the natural light. I moved away from artificial light. Even if more consistent in color, artificial light is not as contrasty and pleasant. I do like the FN button next to the shutter - it's customized to be the video button, so I can take video or photo without changing any settings.

I record the videos in 20 second up to 300 second clips. I rarely need to go over this limit. After all, I only need 2-3 clips of under 60 seconds from each sketch, for my social media. I never to timelapses - I think it's boring to watch. Besides, I rotate the paper too many times, so it would be a mess in a timelapse. I focus manually, once at the begining of the video, and leave it there.

X-Pro2 Pros:
- manual control on dials, visible without looking at the screen (screen being away from me while on the overhead tripod)
- compact size, simple shape (main reason why I abandoned Nikon)
- precise autofocus (manual focus on a hard dial), even on white sheet of paper.

X-Pro2Cons:
- No 4k yet (there was no 4k on Fujifilm when I purchased this camera in 2016)
- no flip screen (so I can't see what I record without getting up every 20 seconds...)
- no 3.5mm jack, as I record sound... I use a 2.5mm adapter at all times, and the camera has a hard time recognizing the microphone. I missed the sound many times, when the camera decided to use the internal microphone instead...

What about the sound? I use a simple Rode compact microphone. Rode VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Microphone by the full name. One trick - I lay the microphone on the table, so it catches the sound and vibration a little stronger than an aerial one, located at the same distance - under 24" away. A simple way to get strong sound, while overpowering the background noise.

 
sound recording rode mic

Video Editing - I use Final Cut Pro, on a MacBook Pro 2016 Touchbar. I do little editing, except for some desaturation, bump up the highlights and lower the shadows. The goal is to get the white paper as white as possible, in a nicely contrasted video. I've stopped adding sound in the past few months, so I rely solely on the scratch sounds produced by the microphone. My videos are a simple collection of a few clips, in a 30-60 second long video for Instagram, or longer for youtube.

 
final cut pro video sketch

Photo Editing - Lightroom is really the way to go. I've been using it ever since Apple abandoned Aperture. I almost always maximize highlights and whites, just enough so the images do now look "burned". I lower the saturation halfway and increase the contrast. I almost always get the white balance wrong, so I adjust the color temperature to compensate. Sometimes I add a little, but just a little dark vignette. I am dealing with a white background, so any imperfection count. I do need to brush the image a little, to eliminate dark spots or dust from the lens. I usually don't need more than 3-5 images per sketch, so editing them is the easier part when compared to video editing. I never apply preset filters. All adjustments are on case by case. 

 
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I got the LAMY aion

I've been sketching with LAMY fountain pens for a few years now. I've tried several types before receiving the aion. I was impressed! It's a precisely engineered instrument, with the right feel in the body, but a completely new experience in nib, sound, and expression! Super smooth nib on both sides. I like the simplicity of the two ends - the designer decided to do nothing, but leave this as simple as possible - no trim, no rim, no edge - just a simple, smooth end. LAMY calls the finish "brilliant silk-matt anodic coating" which I like. It should hold itself well. Timeless.

 

Finish - brushed aluminum, simple and straightforward, no gimmicky ordination or colors. 
Weight - we all have different uses for it, but somehow feels better balanced than the Scala. Definitely heavier than the plastic Safari, so this is a plus.
Line weight - the M seems a little heavier than I am used to seeing. It works well in covering larger areas when it comes to solid black fill. Sometimes it helps with shading. I do like to use the fountain pens 180 degrees, for a much lighter line weight. This is smooth on both sides!
The Nib - this is where I see a difference from all other nibs. It is smooth on both sides and makes a distinctive sound. I need to continue listening to this, try it on different surfaces with different microphones, but I do like this better than any other sounds. Additionally, this is rounder than usual. This might influence the quality and feel of my work, but I can only tell better after I do over a dozen sketches. I will likely use it for writing, but writing is probably just under 1/4 of my uses. 

One thing I noticed - the finish, "brilliant silk-matt anodic coating" does get stained a little when dipped into the ink bottle. I expect this to blend in, once the pen gets a little greasy. Thanks Lamy, thanks Franziska and Jessica from Meiré und Meiré!

Why a Solid Tripod is Essential in Architectural Photography

Manfrotto Italy was gracious enough to send me a tripod of my choice (thanks, Claudia!). I've selected the 190XPRO Aluminium 3-Section Tripod and XPRO Ball Head. This is probably one of the heaviest Manfrotto tripod Manfrotto offers. Do I need such a heavy one, considering that I am using a fairly light mirrorless system? (Fujifilm X-Pro2 as my main body)

This is probably not needed for the weight of the camera. Also, I don't do long exposure too much. But the most important thing is having a good way to accurately frame my subjects. In Architectural photography, this is arguably more important than photography nature or portrait. Again, it's accuracy! Also, the weights adds stability, really needed in outdoor windy situations. I selected the aluminum on purpose, will get a carbon fiber at a later time...

One additional feature is the 90 degree option for the center column - see the photos above. I might use this in the future as part of my overhead shooting rig - basically, a camera support sitting over my table, pointing straight down at my drafting board. This is how I record my architectural sketches. I will post about this at a later time. 

Lamy Imporium in Black and Gold

Although I am not a big fan of high-end luxury products and never owned anything that contains gold, I need to say that the Lamy Imporium in Black and Gold is a special product... I've used the Lamy Safari for many years, the white one is my favorite one so far, and I never felt the need to upgrade, until I was offered the opportunity to try one.

It's definitely a very well crafted writing instrument. Probably one of the better ones I've even handled. Well crafted finish in metal, black, with gold (yes, 14k gold!) accents - the nib, cap clip and the ring at the end of the barrel. The cap is threaded, a new to me, and the LAMY logo is in engrave just once, on the golden clip. This is the titanium version, designed by Marco Bellini. It also comes in all black or titanium finish.

It offers an extremely smooth writing. A little heavier than the usual pen, so this might be a negative to some. To me, the weight gives it a solid feel. Again, this is an extremely high-quality instrument, all metal, super cool and sleek. I almost feel bad for using it to draw, but I am gentle. Thanks, Lamy!